Categories
Auditing

Dueling perspectives on internal audit

A guest post by an intern in Internal Audit was recently featured on another accountant’s blog, I Want To Be A CA, and I was first alerted to it by Krupo’s post title bait. The post is not complimentary about internal audit, but the support for its thesis is so flimsy and based on purely anecdotal evidence that it’s impossible to take it seriously. It begins:

I work in internal audit of a large corporation in the Southwestern United States. That’s all I will reveal of my identity for obvious reasons.

The “obvious reasons” are that he’s about to trash every element of this opportunity he’s been given to work at a large corporation in the Southwest US (during a massive recession when people much more experienced than him are losing their jobs, and in one of the hardest hit parts of the country to boot) despite having only two years of university level accounting studies to his credit.

I’m reminded of a recent column by Maureen Dowd on the use of anonymity online:

In this infinite realm of truth-telling, many want to hide. Who are these people prepared to tell you what they think, but not who they are? … Pseudonyms have a noble history… But on the Internet, it’s often less about being constructive and more about being cowardly.

One of the best uses for constructive anonymity is that of the whistleblower. Most companies have set up whistleblower channels by now which allow employees at all levels to safely make public or report to an independent body abuses they have observed at work. The post in question is not an example of constructive anonymity.

With that out of the way:

So you ask yourself, why go into internal audit? Well I’ve been asking myself the same question. I’ve been here almost three months and still have yet to see any meaningfulness in this work. … Granted, without this deterrent could be rampant fraud and waste, etc, but that’s beside the point.

I thought the point was that audit is meaningless. So, factors which make audit worthwhile are beside it? I guess if you ignore the potential for rampant fraud and waste, the job would be basically meaningless. I think it’s safe to assume he’s been so busy mindlessly ticking and tying his POs that he wouldn’t see an opportunity to address waste or fraud if it presented itself.

And with that, I’m reminded of a recent post by Penelope Trunk on creativity:

It’s as misguided to divide the world into creative and non-creative jobs as it is to divide the world into creative and non-creative people. All jobs have opportunities for creativity. Some have more and some have less, but you usually get more opportunities to be creative by demonstrating that you are a creative problem solver over and over again.

IA jobs can be rewarding and meaningful, but oftentimes only as much as you make them. The key point is that the onus is on you to push your job into creative territory. Not at the expense of your required duties, but going above and beyond what’s expected of you. You have to want to make the work meaningful and strive to do so. Especially in an entry-level internship, as this is a great opportunity to show your superiors that you’re a top performer. If you ruffle too many feathers (and the problem here may indeed be the work environment he’s found himself in), you’re back in school before you know it anyway for third year.

Continuing on:

The thing you have to keep in mind with internal audit is that you are working with the same documents, same departments, and same procedures year after year with the rare addition or removal of a department.

This really depends on the type of organization you’re working for. There are companies that own various subsidiaries in related industries that will provide variety. I know in my position I see many different types of businesses that fall under the broad building materials category, including heavy industry, manufacturing and pure distribution/wholesale. Newly acquired companies are a source of variety as well, and there is a smorgasbord of accounting systems in use providing challenge and an opportunity to learn and develop.

Oh, and the other thing about internal audit is you don’t get to travel nearly as much as external auditors, because everything you’re auditing is in the same building. The hours are also a lot more manageable. Nobody here goes over 40 hours a week.

Again, depends on the company. I left public accounting because my current position offered the chance to travel extensively. Since starting the job last May, I’ve worked in Switzerland, Ireland, the US, and Canada. The lion’s share of traveling for me is to the US. I just got back from Phoenix (third time this year), and before that spent three weeks in the Seattle-Tacoma area. (Gorgeous country!)

As far as the hours go, when I’m back in town (which I am for the next three weeks!) it’s pretty accurate to say we work a solid 40 hours only. On weeks where I’m on the road, the days are longer (10 hours usually) and Monday mornings are brutal. Think getting up at 3:30am EDT for a flight and working till 6pm Pacific! The bottom line is that the work that needs to get done, gets done on time no matter how long it takes, and this is generally true no matter where you work.

If you don’t have much of an imagination, enjoy working by yourself a lot, don’t mind monotonous work, have attention to detail, enjoys following instructions, don’t mind doing work that seems pointless (in your mind), and wants a steady paycheck, then I’d say auditing is for you.

Yeah this pretty much sums up the whole snarky episode. I see the proposition of IA a bit differently:

If you have a creative mind, enjoy working in small groups and meeting tons of new people every week, love challenging work, can both devise and follow instructions (and occasionally throw them out the window), don’t mind work that is critically important to the continued growth of your organization, and want a healthy and steady paycheck, good benefits and job security, then I’d say auditing is for you.

Auditing 101: Never extrapolate from a sample of one across a large, heterogeneous population.

Categories
Profession

Mid-busy season update

I’ve been very busy the past week at a job out of town, which continues this week. Blog posts have slowed to a trickle again.

It’s the first job I’ve been on that is away from home, but it hasn’t been too bad and the hours we’ve been working aren’t excessive for busy season. There are definite perks to traveling for work, like expensing meals and lots of socializing outside of work.

As for getting my CA, I should be hearing back soon from the ICAO that I’ve met all the requirements. I think in general they meet monthly to accept new members, so it could be pretty quick.

The two weeks after this one I’m back in town working on a new client that I lobbied hard to get scheduled on. I’m looking forward to it! Making a good impression for the firm, giving great client service, and meeting new people.

There’s also the annual CA Dinner Dance (or “CA ball” as it’s known in my circles) next weekend, which will be a good chance to catch up with some co-workers I haven’t seen in a while and celebrate with the 2007 UFE passers as it’s really their evening. Their convocation ceremony is earlier in the day.

Busy season has been going well so far, very manageable. I’m really looking forward to taking a nice vacation in May though!

Categories
Profession

Go west! Or east, or north, or south!

One of the great things about this accounting profession I’m in is the multitude of opportunities available to travel and work abroad, given that many large firms here in Canada are international.

I was just reading an article in BusinessWeek about KPMG, where the head of campus recruiting was under the impression that their international exchange program was something that sets them apart from about a dozen other international firms.

I’m psyched about heading somewhere else to work for a little while eventually. For the time being I’ll be staying put, after all I don’t have my CA yet.

One of my seminar leaders at the School of Accountancy went to London for a year or so and had a blast. It was funny though, because he was Canadian for some reason they felt he was a perfect fit for their US GAAP clients, even though there are a ton of differences between Canadian GAAP and American standards.

In no particular order, here are where I’m most interested in going, when I get a chance:

  • Shanghai
  • London
  • New York
  • Berlin
  • Tokyo

In what other job you can get right out of university do you get this type of opportunity?

Categories
Business

NAFTA super highway to accelerate North American trade

I stumbled across this story through digg and it seemed pretty well supported even though it hasn’t been covered in the mainstream media at all yet. The Bush administration appears to be planning for a Mexico-USA-Canada “super corridor” to bypass a couple unions.

The new road will allow containers from the Far East to enter the United States through the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas, bypassing the Longshoreman’s Union in the process. The Mexican trucks, without the involvement of the Teamsters Union, will drive on what will be the nation’s most modern highway straight into the heart of America. The Mexican trucks will cross border in FAST lanes, checked only electronically by the new “SENTRI” system. The first customs stop will be a Mexican customs office in Kansas City, their new Smart Port complex, a facility being built for Mexico at a cost of $3 million to the U.S. taxpayers in Kansas City.

The first segment through Texas is ready to be constructed next year! The implication is the creation of a North American Union like the European Union, although it’ll probably end up being more like a natural extension of NAFTA. Less politics, more economics.

Categories
Auditing

Mapping out my clients after a year in public practice

I have been playing around with Windows Live Local lately, Microsoft’s competition for Google Maps.

GTA map of audit clientsI decided to map all the clients where I’ve been in the last year with my firm. For the blue ones I just had to search for the business name, but the red ones represent clients that I had to manually search for their address and add them because they didn’t show up in a business name search for whatever reason.

I thought it was pretty interesting to see it all laid out there. One client in Waterloo, an inventory count at a location in Guelph, a client in Burlington, one in Brampton, Pickering and Vaughan, a few downtown Toronto, the rest in Mississauga, Etobicoke and North York.